If you visit Spain, you shouldn’t leave without visiting the capital, a city loved by so many for all the things it has to offer. There’s always a show going on, a new corner to discover, an interesting exhibition or a place to relax and enjoy the weather. If you are a budget traveler like me, here are some things to do when visiting Madrid.
1. Find an Egyptian temple in the city center
The Debod Temple is an ancient Egyptian temple brought to Madrid between 1970 and 1971 as a sign of gratitude for the help Spain provided to Abu Simbel to save their temples. It can be found in a park the in the city center next to the Royal Palace. It also has a beautiful sunset view.
2. Visit the City Hall
This is one of the most iconic buildings in the city, you can find some temporary exhibitions inside and if you want to admire some city views there’s a rooftop you can visit for a small fee or if you’re lucky and you’re visiting the first Wednesday of the month you can enjoy it for free.
3. Look at Madrid from above at Uncle Pio Hill Park
One of the best skyline views of Madrid is this hill park located in the neighborhood Vallecas, in summer it’s a very popular place for locals to chill and get a bit of fresh breeze at the top.
4. Ride along Madrid Rio
It’s the park that goes along the Manzanares river, the official inauguration was in 2011, so it has very modern structures, with around 30km of bike trails, a skate park, soccer fields, playgrounds built with sustainable materials, fountains, an area with water jets to enjoy in the summer and much more. You should go there and see it yourself. Along the park there’s also the Matadero, a cultural space where exhibitions are held and many events are going on throughout the year.
5. Visit la Casa Encendida
Another cultural space close to the Reina Sofia Museum in Atocha, you can enjoy many free exhibitions there and a rooftop free to access with a bar.
6. Discover the Retiro Park
If you want to get away from the noise in the city you don’t need to go out of it. The Retiro is a 125 hectares Park where you can find a lake to enjoy with paddle boats, the famous Glass Palace, Botanical gardens and many other wonderful things. In Spring and Summer (Apr-Sep) it opens from 6:00 am to 12:00 am and in autumn and winter (Oct-Mar) it’s open until 10:00 pm.
7. Explore Madrid de los Austrias
The most historic neighborhood and old center of Madrid has this name because it was built during the Habsburg Dynasty (who were known as “the Austrians” in Spanish). The Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol and Royal Palace are part of this area, and the best way to discover it is by walking a couple hours around it.
8. Visit the Royal Palace
Officially the residence of the Spanish Royal family but it’s actually only used to hold State ceremonies. There is a fee to enter, but from April to September (Mo-Th) from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and from October to March from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm it is also possible to access for free. If you’re planning on doing this I recommend that you arrive earlier, since lines can get very long to enter this amazing attraction.
9. Walk around Campo del Moro
Hidden behind the Royal Palace you can find these beautiful gardens. The official and only public entrance is in Paseo Virgen del Puerto and it’s great to wander around, get a different view of the Royal Palace and even run into some peacocks. You can find it open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm in winter and until 8:00 pm in summer.
10. Wander through a tropical garden at a train station
Atocha is the main train station in Madrid, and in the huge complex you can find a small garden full of turtles in the water. A good place to chill out while waiting for your next train or for someone who’s coming to Madrid. You don’t need to have a train ticket to access the area and see it!
11. Find a bargain at El Rastro
The most famous and biggest open-air flea market of the city, held every Sunday morning in the neighborhood La Latina. You can find many things like antiques, clothes, furniture, books, jewelry and there’s also an area where people exchange stickers and cards.
Curious fact: The name el Rastro (the Trail) comes from the trail that the animals transported to the old tanneries in the area used to leave.
12. Access the best museums for free
Madrid is home to some of the best museums in the world, like the Prado Museum or Reina Sofia, and these are also open for free some periods of the day, check my post Tips for Madrid by a Local for more information about the schedules.
13. Admire the best views of Gran Via
On the 9th floor of the Spanish department store el Corte Inglés in Gran Via, there’s a Gourmet market where you can not only taste many different delights, but also appreciate a nice view of the famous shopping street and the Capitol building. You don’t need to pay to access the area if you just want to take a peek at the views.
14. Read poetry in Barrio de las Letras
The translation of this place is Neighborhood of the Letters, because while walking through the streets of the area, you can find verses from some of the great Spanish writers of the Golden Age who lived in the area like Cervantes or Quevedo.
15. Find art in the streets
Street art is slowly growing in the Spanish capital over the last few years. While you can always find nice surprises while walking around the city, some of the best places to enjoy this art are Tabacalera and Malasaña. In this last one the city started a festival in 2016, where once a year 100 new artists are able to show their talent painting a wall or shop during a day, creating an open-air gallery for everyone to enjoy.
Have you visited Madrid? Did you do anything else for free which you would like to share?